Knowledge, Knowing and Changing in a Library: A Consulting Process during 1987-2000 at the State & University Library of Denmark

Marjatta Maula

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The State & University Library (Aarhus, Denmark) has developed – as a result of a long, self-induced process where Ankerhus Konsulenter i Udviklingsledelse A/S has had a role in some parts of the process - better orientation on clients, services and technology. The Library has also dismantled its earlier patriarchaic organization. However, the directors of the Library and Ankerhus admit that the pace of change is too slow, and it seems to be difficult to speed up the process. The Library’s most important relations are the ones to the Ministry of Culture, the users (and especially the user organization), and other libraries with whom the Library cooperates and competes. The Library also uses consulting firms for various purposes. The State & University Library has cooperated with the consulting firm Ankerhus Konsulenter i Udviklingsledelse A/S from the year 1987 in several assignments. This report attempts to identify potential reasons for the slowness of the progress. For that purpose it investigates the roles of knowledge and perception (of environment) for change, by using the theoretical framework of autopoiesis theory. The study ends up to several conclusions concerning the relationship between knowledge, knowing and changing. It indicates that mere possession of relevant explicit knowledge (‘commodity knowledge’) does not facilitate change. The librarians’ professional skills (‘meta-knowledge’) to deal with knowledge are tied to traditions and rules and may even prevent changes on institutional and individual levels. Because of the historical tradition, change capability (a strategic ‘meta-meta-knowledge’) is relatively weak in the State & University Library as it may be in the libraries in general. Therefore, this report presents that there is a knowledge-knowing-changing gap in the Library that influences the pace of changes.The Library’s progress is slow in spite of Ankerhus’ holistic consulting models and methods and in-depth theoretical understanding of changes. It is possible that they and the Library’s own understanding of the complex emerging nature of the reality do not sufficiently simplify the decision-making situation and create the necessary ‘drama’ to it. The Library has made three user surveys in80’s and 90’s and a new strategy in 1999.However, the analysis indicates that the Library is not very open towards the environment, concerning the articulation, communication and operationalization of the changes in the operating environment. Moreover, it is not easy to import best practices from the private sector to the Library. A reliable, shared picture about external challenges would be needed to specify the direction and urgency for potential changes, and to maintain trust among the critical librarians. The Library’s investments in internal development (‘self-referentiality’) have been relatively small, compared to the number of employees and the need for a critical mass for implementing self-sustaining change. The Library could potentially strengthen its change capability also by improving internal communication methods. The case suggests that the symbiotic characteristics of a long consulting relationship help exchanging information. However, they also require special attention so that neutrality and objectivity can be maintained and changes implemented. The case illustrates also the importance of organizational and individual identity for implementing change. Finally, taking responsibility of the changes is needed to fill the knowledge-knowing-changing gap.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherDepartment of Management, Politics and Philosophy, CBS
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)8790403762
Publication statusPublished - 2000
SeriesMPP Working Paper

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